Procedure Heart & Vascular

Heart Transplant
Procedure

Heart transplant surgery involves removing most of your diseased heart and inserting one from a person who has died. You will be called to come to the hospital immediately once you have been assigned a donor heart. Upon arrival, you will go the Coronary Care Unit for a physical exam and more tests, including blood and urine samples.

You will be prepared for surgery, which includes the insertion of intravenous lines and a catheter in your neck to measure the pressure in your heart.

You will be given anesthesia so that you will sleep through the surgery. You also will receive immunosuppressive drugs before and during the procedure to prevent your body from rejecting the new heart.

The surgery involves:

  • A major incision down your chest. Your breastbone is split in half.
  • Your main arteries are connected to a heart lung bypass machine to pump your blood and a ventilator will help you breathe.
  • Most heart transplants are done with a method called orthotopic surgery, where most of your heart is removed but the back half of both upper chambers, called atria, are left in place. Then the front half of the donor heart is sewn to the back half of the old heart.
  • The donor's aorta and pulmonary arteries are connected to yours. The bypass machine is disconnected and your new heart begins the work of pumping blood.
  • Your incisions are closed.

This surgery is considered less complicated than most heart bypass surgeries, including coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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